That Summer he Died by Emlyn Rees

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What the blurb says: On the surface, James Sawday’s got it all. An investigative journalist for a glossy men’s magazine, he gets to travel the world following adventure. And when he gets home, there’s Lucy waiting for him. Smart, funny and in love. She could even be the one. 

But when James’ editor sends him to the seaside town of Grancombe, he couldn’t have imagined what was in store. A serial killer has filled the shore with terror – the killer’s personal trophy: the victim’s hand. The third attack draws James into a world he’s spent all of his adult life trying to forget. 

Ten years before, during a hazy, drug-fuelled summer, James was one of a group of teenagers who stumbled on the mutilated corpse of local artist Jack Dawes. And then the second killing happened – the one that still gives James nightmares.

Now James has got to dig up everything he’s worked so hard to bury. And what he’s going to find out could cost him his sanity. And his life.”

This book looks beyond the traditional sea and sand getaways offered to holidaymakers, delving instead into the darker aspects of Rees’ Grancombe. The narrative alternates between James Sawday’s present – the life that he’s made for himself in London: he’s a successful journalist, has a good circle of friends and a beautiful girlfriend – and the summer he spent with his uncle ten years previously as he teetered between school and university, a summer that he’s done his best to forget.

When his editor sends James back to the place that still haunts him in his nightmares, James is determined to spend as little time as possible and speak to as few people there as he can. At first this works out well, and the article he has to write about the serial killings in the area shapes up quickly, but when he starts to connect with people from the past he finds himself sucked back into the secrets and crimes that remain unresolved and the life he has carefully built for himself begins to unravel.

Emotive and powerful, for me the question at the heart of this story is ‘what happens when a good person does bad things?’

Rees masterfully teases and hints at the horrors of the past, revealing the truth piece by piece and the tension mounts as James’ paranoia and fear escalates. High suspense and high stakes, this story reminds you that no matter how picturesque the setting, bad things can and do happen.

Rapid paced and chillingly mysterious, this is a must-read for fans of psychological thrillers.

[Thank you to C&R Crime for my kindle copy of That Summer He Died]

The Twelfth Department by William Ryan

The Twelfth Department

The Twelfth Department

What the blurb says: “Mosco, 1937. Captain Korolev, a police investigator, is enjoying a long-overdue visit from his young son Yuri when an eminent scientist is shot dead within sight of the Kremlin. Korolev is ordered to find the killer.

But when another scientist is brutally murdered, and evidence of the professors’ dark experiments is hastily removed, Korolev begins to realise that he’s caught in a dangerous battle between two warring factions of the NKVD. And then Yuri goes missing …”

The Twelfth Department is the third in William Ryan’s Captain Korolev series set in 1930s Russia. His previous novels in the series, The Holy Thief and The Bloody Meadow have between them been shortlisted for a range of fabulous awards including the Theakstones Crime Novel of the Year, the CWA New Blood Dagger, the Irish Fiction Award and the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year.

The Twelfth Department is a stunning read. On every page of this novel you feel the undercurrent of tension and horror, a situation made commonplace by Stalin’s Great Terror. Yet despite living in a city caught in the vice-grip of fear, Captain Korolev is a loyal and honourable man, seeking out justice and truth, and determined to do the right thing even if that puts him in danger.

The story feels so authentic, the setting and period detail so vivid, and the story drives forward with a sense of urgency born from the very real jeopardy that the characters find themselves in. I found myself so drawn into the story – the lives of the characters and the world in which they lived – that it was a real struggle to put the book down when I had to go to work (or sleep).

While the novel is part of an ongoing series it works well as a stand alone story in its own right. A must for fans of the police procedural and historical crime fiction, and for anyone looking for a gripping mystery and emotive story that will keep you hooked to the very last page.

Highly recommended.


[With thanks to MANTLE for my copy of The Twelfth Department]


Event Alert: CSI Portsmouth 2013

English: HMS Warrior One of the many exhibits ...

English: HMS Warrior One of the many exhibits at the historic dockyard. Looking across Portsmouth Harbour to the flats of Gosport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CSI Portsmouth is an event for all crime fiction lovers (and fans of CSI shows). It’s organised by author Pauline Rowson with Portsmouth City Council Library Service and Hayling Island Bookshop. This year it takes place on Saturday 2nd November at The National Museum of the Royal Navy in the Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth.

Featuring crime authors along with police and forensic experts on a morning and an afternoon panel, attendees get to hear how writers go about writing their crime novels and police/forensic experts do their jobs. There’ll be the chance to ask the panel questions, and a book signing.

In addition, the Crime Readers Association is running at competition to win two tickets to the CSI Portsmouth 2013 event. All you need to do is answer a question (there’s even a helpful hint on their webpage) and you’re in with a chance, but hurry – entries close on the 14th July.

To find out more about the Crime Readers Association competition and how to enter, pop over to their website at

And, to get all the details on CSI Portsmouth, and to register for their newsletter, jump this link to their website

Interview with author Chris Allen, creator of the INTREPID series

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Today I’m excited to welcome Chris Allen, creator and author of the Alex Morgan spy thriller INTREPID series, to the CTG blog.

Chris’ latest novel, the second in the INTREPID series, entitled Hunter is out now. What the blurb says: Alex Morgan – policeman, solider and spy for INTREPID, the black ops division of Interpol – is on the hunt for Serbian war criminals. But these guys were never going to let it be that simple. An assassination attempt is made on the presiding judge of the international tribunal. Days later, the judge’s daughter, the famous and beautiful classical pianist Charlotte Rose, vanishes.

Charlotte isn’t just the daughter of a judge, she’s also the god-daughter of INTREPID’s veteran commander, General Davenport. It’s up to Morgan and the team to track the kidnappers and the missing woman before the very fabric of international justice is picked apart. Alex Morgan must walk the line between doing the right thing and getting the job done.

I found Hunter a rapid-paced, action packed rollercoaster of a story that I think will appeal to those readers that love action thrillers with plenty of real-world details. Knowing that Chris is a writer with first hand experience of action situations, I jumped at the chance to quiz him about creating the series and his writing process.

So, without further ado, I’d like to welcome Chris Allen and kick-off with my first question …

Alex Morgan, the lead character in your INTREPID series, is a no-nonsense, get-things-done kind of guy, what was your inspiration for creating him?

Over the years, since I was a kid, I’ve been influenced by many classic action heroes – all the obvious fictional ones from my early years like James Bond, Simon Templar, John Steed, Napoleon Solo, but my greatest influence by far has always been real-world heroes. I’ve been fortunate enough to know a few personally as well as taking an active interest in the exploits of the acknowledged, decorated variety. As a result, Alex Morgan is a mixture of my favourite fictional and real-world inspirations.

As a serviceman-turned-writer, how have you found the transition from being in the action to writing the action?

My military career came to an end due to injuries I sustained in service; basically, wear & tear brought on my use-by date prematurely. As a result my exit from a very active career as a Paratrooper was imposed on me. So, I had no choice but to change direction.

It was a natural process to then rediscover what my ultimate dream was all along. I’d wanted to write action stories ever since I was old enough to understand them. It took me a couple of years of being out of the Army followed by a deployment to East Timor with an aid agency before I felt ready to start writing. But once I’d started there was no stopping me!

Can you tell us a little about your writing process, do you plot out the story events out in advance, or just start writing and see where the story takes you?

Book one in the series, Defender, took me a decade to write and book two, Hunter, was roughly six months, so my writing process has vastly changed. Having a deadline to stick to as well as increased confidence has been a game-changer.

These days I plan a lot in my head and scribble ideas and plot lines in my little brown book.  It’s like putting a puzzle together or solving a complex problem. Then, I map the main ideas out on a whiteboard – using sticky notes or just a marker – and then connect the dots, bringing the plots and sub-plots together. I always have my brown book on hand for any other inspirations, as I’m constantly mulling the story over in my mind, examining it from all angles.

Once I have a good picture of where it’s all going, I bash out each chapter as fast as I can to get them on the page! Obviously once the first full draft is out, that’s where the real work begins, but the planning and researching is a huge part of the process for me.

Your books have been likened to those of Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum, but who writes the books that you have on your ‘to read’ pile?

I was really thrilled when I realised people were putting me in their class, it’s a huge accolade and one I will always strive to be more worthy of.  Ian Fleming is my literary hero and I love Ludlum’s writing.

There is so much on my TBR pile at the moment, because when I’m writing I try not to indulge my action thriller habit by reading other work. Most of the books on my Kindle at the moment are the new writers I’ve been getting to know through global outreach and online activities as well as my mates on the local Australian authors’ scene. Those that I’ve been looking at before putting the pedal to the metal with Avenger include Aussie writers Greg Barron, Luke Preston, Nathan Farrugia, Nina D’Aleo, Tony Park’s latest and my new Minnesotan pal Doug Dorow. Once the first draft of Avenger is done I’ll also be reading Irish Crime writer Declan Burke and John Le Carre’s latest A Delicate Truth.

And what’s next for you, are you working on the next novel in the INTREPID series and, if so, when will we be able to read it?

Avenger is well and truly underway, and my aim is for it to be even more hard-hitting than the first two. I hope to have Avenger available by the end of 2013, and crack straight into the fourth in the Intrepid series. So, Alex Morgan has his dance card pretty full at the moment.

In addition, I’m working with a Hollywood producer – who just happens to be a very cool guy – on film and TV adaptations of the Alex Morgan/Intrepid series. But that’s about all I can divulge right now!

Author Chris Allen

Author Chris Allen

About the author:

Before penning his Alex Morgan espionage series, featuring the ultra-secret agency Intrepid from Interpol, Chris saw the world from under a parachute; made a difference in East Timor; protected Sydney’s iconic sails post 9/11; and most recently, held one of the most historic law enforcement appointments in Australia. Since self-publishing and then being signed by Pan Macmillan Australia’s digital imprint Momentum for a two-book deal, Defender and Hunter have wowed readers worldwide, with Avenger due out end-2013. Chris dreams of one day spending extended periods at an English country cottage in Surrey, preferably one that is walking distance from the local pub.

A huge thank you to Chris Allen for dropping by the CTG blog and letting me quiz him.

To find out more about his books and the man behind them, hop on over to Chris’ blog where he chats about all things thriller as well as a love of cult TV shows and movies from his youth at

[With thanks to Chris Allen and Pan Macmillan Australia, Momentum for my copy of Hunted]